The 40-yard dash is a sprint that can be run on any surface. Some prefer it to be run on artificial or real turf, whereas others prefer it to be run on a track. There is a difference in running speed and agility, depending on what terrain is chosen. NFL teams, for instance, normally time their players on turf because it simulates game conditions. But players also are timed indoors on a hard synthetic turf floor during the NFL Scouting Combine held before the annual draft.
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The purpose of the 40-yard dash is to test an athlete's acceleration, speed, agility and quickness, according to Topend Sports. It is also part of the SPARQ rating system for football players. In this test, the athlete sprints over 40 yards while being timed. The average 40-yard sprint times are 4.6 to 4.9 seconds for college football players, 4.9 to 5.6 for high school football players, 5.0 for recreational male college athletes and 5.8 seconds for recreational female college athletes. Elite NFL skill position players have been timed as low as 4.2 to 4.3 seconds. A 40-yard dash may be run on turf or a track.
Although the 40-yard dash is used in school and track, it is primarily a way to evaluate football players. Track-and-field runners are often timed using a stopwatch or starting gun on the track. Because they will run on tracks most of the time, the 40-yard dash test is often given on this surface.
The Philly website state that artificial turf helps football players with agility drills. According to the October 2010 issue of the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," college football players were 3 percent faster on an artificial turf over a grass surface, although it only slightly changed their 40-yard dash times. Running the 40-yard dash on turf can be challenging if you are not wearing the correct shoes. Track running shoes will not work well on turf, so you'll need to look for lightweight shoes with cleats. According to NFL Combine Workout, wearing the right type of shoes on the turf can help you run faster.
At the time of publication, there is no information to state whether running the 40-yard dash on turf or track is quicker or better. However, the NFL states that running on a track or turf is faster than running on grass.